Toy patriots ride forth again
They say they want to help the Hammonds, but the ranchers don’t want their help.
They say they’re on a religious mission, but their church condemns their actions.
They say they’re determined to take “back” our public lands, but the wildlife refuge they’re occupying already belongs to the people.
As our government shows remarkable and appropriate restraint in waiting out the armed self-anointed militia, we remember when it wasn’t so. In 1985, in Philadelphia, law enforcement dropped a helicopter bomb on the armed black families of MOVE, a fringe liberation group who believed the government was violating their constitutional rights. Six adults and five children died in the fire which burned a city block, destroying 65 homes and leaving scars that have never healed.
Later, the Waco and Ruby Ridge confrontations produced 78 more deaths and a new resolve to avoid the shooting and bloodshed that feeds the fire of resentment and martyrdom leading a new generation down the same misguided path.
Last week, the Bundys once again embarrassed and appalled Nevadans as they took their ill-conceived notion of patriotism on the road, seizing a federal building in a remote county in Oregon, whose residents might sympathize with their anti-government views, but draw the line at using threats of violence to communicate them. As Sheriff David Ward put it: “These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.”
The Bundys don’t seem to realize a movement needs committed members to thrive.
The Bundys’ delusions of being selected by God to achieve their mission are stunningly self-serving. Ammon Bundy claims that God directed him to Oregon, telling reporters, “I began to understand how the Lord felt about Harney County and about this country, and I clearly understood that the Lord was not pleased with what was happening to the Hammonds. What was happening to them, if it was not corrected, would be a type and a shadow of what would happen to the rest of the people across the country.”
This, from a man who has sought and received substantial government assistance to supplement his family budget, including a $530,000 loan from the Small Business Administration, financed by the taxpayers. His family grazes cattle on public lands at a ridiculously low monthly rate of $1.35 per cow compared to the $20 per cow charged by private landowners. And even that discount isn’t good enough for the Bundys as they use God and their family’s destiny to defend their freeloading on land which belongs to all of us.
While the conflict with the Bundys should be settled non-violently, we should not forgive their trespasses. We must sue to collect the $1 million in fees and fines they owe us for illegal grazing. We should demand that our state politicians who have supported the anti-government rhetoric surrounding our public lands reconsider their views in light of the violence and lawlessness these self-proclaimed patriots espouse. They must renounce these false “heroes” of the sagebrush and call them out for what they are, law-breakers who line their own pockets with proceeds gained from our public lands, the lands so many of us want to remain open and unspoiled by cattle ranchers and foreign mining conglomerates.
The Bundys and their gun-toting militia friends say they’re prepared to die for their muddled, unrighteous cause but in the meantime they’d like some snacks mailed to them to tide them over. We, the people, wish they would leave our public lands alone instead and start living honest and honorable lives.